Speaker 1: I think Mars is, is it is the hot destination right now, right? And I think the next big, big achievement of space exploration is going to be putting humans on Mars,
Speaker 2: Even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic three unmanned space crafts from three different countries set off for Mars in July, 2020, the United Arab Emirates hope probe China's town, 11 rocket. And of course NASA's perseverance Rover. All three took advantage of a particularly opportune launch window. When objects launched [00:00:30] from earth would have a shorter, more efficient path to Mars. The three missions will explore the red planet's atmosphere map certain parts of its rain and collect surface samples for evidence of water and life and do it in three different ways. Through these missions, scientists, hope to understand how a planet like Mars can transform from a possibly habitable system with liquid water, organic material, and an energy source into a dry, dusty and desolate place. [00:01:00] So why the sudden race to Mars
Speaker 1: Life has been what is driving so much of Mars exploration, but there really is a lot more to Mars. And one of the things is that it has this fantastic rock record extending over billions of years and no other planet has that. So if we wanna understand even simple things about, you know, how do Earthlike planets evolve over their first billion years? Mars is the place to do that.
Speaker 2: Dr. Briani Hogan is on the science team for the perseverance Rover as well as a co investigator on the mass Kinsey camera system, [00:01:30] which captures the stunning images sent back from Mars. NASA's perseverance Rover landed on Mars on February 18th in Giro crater, a 500 meter deep crater that was once home to a 1600 foot deep lake scientists think a network of rivers probably fed into the site, making it a prime place for life to have evolved on the red
Speaker 1: Planet. And we can see that because when you look at, uh, at Jesu row from orbit, you can actually see this huge river channel cutting through the crater rims, blowing into the crater and creating a Delta where it flowed [00:02:00] into an lake that's where organic materials can be concentrated in per reserved over very long periods of time on earth. Since we're hoping to find the same thing on Mars,
Speaker 2: Armed with multiple scientific instruments, including a pixel x-ray spectrometer and Ari fact subsurface radar, perseverance Rover has four main goals. Goal one determine whether life ever existed on ours. This mission focuses on surface based studies of the Martian environment with perseverance [00:02:30] seeking biosignatures and rocks that formed in an ancient Martian environment. A bio signature is any substance that provides scientific evidence of past or present life. Dr. Hogan, an expert in meteorology knows exactly what type of biosignatures the perseverance Rover may find on the marching surface.
Speaker 1: We can do things like search for, you know, larger scale fossils that microbial colonies might leave behind in a rock. So textures, right? That could be that look, biological and origin. We can look at things like that.
Speaker 2: [00:03:00] Goal two characterize the geology of Mars. Each layer of rock on the marching surface contains a record of the environment where it was formed, like rings on a tree. Perseverance will search for rocks that formed in water and preserved evidence of organic materials. The chemical building will locks of life on
Speaker 1: Mars. There are, you know, 4 billion year old rocks just sitting on the surface where they were deposited, waiting for us to come look at them. And it's entirely possible that some of those rocks could contain, uh, contain signs [00:03:30] of how life started on Mars, which can then tell us about how life started on their own planet.
Speaker 2: Goal three, analyze the climate of Mars. Mars is atmosphere, wind, and weather patterns also play a key role in analyzing if microbial life existed in the past. So NASA's perseverance Rover carried something big underneath its belly on its month long mission to Mars to accomplish this goal. Something new to the red planet. That's never been attempted before the ingenuity helicopter.
Speaker 1: [00:04:00] There are so many questions we wanna ask that are kind of like just beyond the range of a Rover. You know, how did things in this region form, or like, why did Mar outta than get a field? And when did it go away? Those kind of questions require much bigger spatial scales. And so a helicopter would be an absolutely fantastic way to
Speaker 2: Do that. Wayne, less than four pounds, the ingenuity helicopter was designed to survive in the harsh mark environment. After landing, since there's a 20 minute delay in communication from earth, Mars, ingenuity has to fly independently without human control [00:04:30] out on April 19th. It did ingenuity successfully completed the first powered flight on another world, a historic moment and a major milestone demonstrating what's possible. Mars.
Speaker 1: Yeah, so that video is fantastic. Cuz you can see the dust lifting off and then getting blown away and it's actually getting blown away to the north, which is really important for understanding, you know, how stuff is moving around the crater and where the, the, you know, the sedimentary rocks we might be seeing right now, how they formed and where they came from.
Speaker 2: [00:05:00] And finally, perseverance is last goal to prepare for human exploration, NASA hopes to send a maned mission to Mars within the next 20 years. But human survival on Mars for an extended period of time comes with its own set of unique challenges. Mars's atmosphere is 96% carbon dioxide oxygen is less than 1% compared to 21% in Earth's atmosphere. Fortunately, the perseverance Rover has Moxi the Mars oxygen in C2 [00:05:30] resource utilization experiment Moxi draws carbon dioxide and compresses it before passing into what's known as the solid oxide izer or soy soy essentially takes CO2, which is two oxygen atoms and one carbon atom and separates them the separated oxygen ions join up to create a new molecule oh two, which is the oxygen that humans need to breathe. The co or carbon left behind is essentially waste, but could [00:06:00] be used to potentially fuel future vehicles on Mars and on April 20th, the Rover's 60th day on Mars, Moi successfully produced five grams of oxygen from the red planet's thin carbon dioxide, rich atmosphere, NASA's perseverance Rover China's ti one, one missions and the UAE hope probe are equipped with some of the most advanced scientific instruments to ever explore Mars, but with so many missions happening at the same time, is [00:06:30] there a risk? One of them could potentially harm the planet.
Speaker 1: There's a whole field at NASA called planetary protection. And that's about trying to prevent us from contaminating other planets with life from earth. When we take robots to Mars and we take humans to Mars, can we do it as safely as possible without contaminating the marshal environment, especially because we don't actually know for sure that there isn't life living on Mars today, right? It very well could be. And so, uh, we, by if we contaminate Mars too much, we'll risk kind of wiping that, you know, marsh and unique marsh and ecosystem,
Speaker 2: [00:07:00] But how likely is it that the Rover will actually find evidence of life on Mars? It's
Speaker 1: Always hard to say, you know, we're trying to answer a really big question that we have no idea what the answer is to. Um, and I think if we can answer either direction, that's a really, really big result. If we see zero evidence for any kind of microbial life, that's still a very important result will really help us understand, you know, how rare and.